Last Friday David and I hit the road to Dublin for the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis; thankfully it was a lovely morning and the sun was with us on the whole journey down.
The Ard Fheis is a fantastic event, bringing comrades from across Ireland and beyond together for discussion, debate, craic and everything else! For me it is now a particularly busy few days, both in the run up to and during the Ard Fheis itself.
Leaving Press Office duties aside for a second, our local Cumann, the Martin/Treacy Cumann Short Strand, as well as South & East Belfast Comhairle Ceantair, had a number of motions up for discussion; from supporting calls for a public inquiry for any runway extension at Belfast City Airport, to standing for community involvement in the Titanic Quarter development, to calling on the Housing Minister to acquire the vacant land at Mountpottinger Barracks, to calling for increased Irish Language provision within all levels of the party.
Bhí an Rún ar na moltaí Gaeilge os comhar na hArd Fheise oíche Aoine, labhair mé ar a son dár ndóighe.
Saturday allowed me to get up and support the calls from the Belfast City Airport Watch Group, as well as the many residents effected, for a public inquiry into any planned extension to the runway. I also took the opportunity to get up and propose our Cumann’s motion on, what else, but Mountpottinger!
The highlight of every Ard Fheis is the Presidential Adress and this year was no different.
Gerry’s slot had been moved to later in the evening at 8:30pm and shortened to a half hour as opposed to the full hour. This was a better idea!
From he walked up to the podium until the minute he finished Gerry was trí thinne!
He is the most popular politician in Ireland for a reason and Saturdays powerful performance reminded us, despite the gutter snipe and horrendous attacks, why that remains the case!
First Minister Martin McGuinness didn't miss and hit the wall either, he made our position regarding coalition with Fine Gael very clear
Next year the Ard Fheis will come to Cúige Uladh and be held in my native city, Béal Feirste. I’m looking forward to thousands of comrades, Sinn Féin activists, descending on Ireland’s second city, and bringing with them the same energy and dynamism that journeys to the capital every year!
Saturday night saw the annual ‘Le chéile’ celebration, honouring Republicans from across Ireland and beyond who have contributed so much to the Republican struggle, more often than not, without thanks, without recognition.
The Le Chéile event rightly changes that.
A particular source of pride for me and for the Republican Family in the Short Strand was that it was one of our own, Johnny Doc, who was the Ulster nominee this year. Johnny’s contribution to the Republican struggle over 70 years has known no bounds, Gerry Adams paid a particularly poignant and respectful tribute to Johnny; I was honoured to be in attendance, I am delighted too for Johnny and his clann. Tá sé tuilte agat Johnny Doc!
You can read more about Johnny in an interview he gave to An Phoblacht ahead of Le Chéile.
On Sunday we were back up the road to Béal Feirste, in the knowledge that Tuesday would bring the major debate on the transfer of Policing and Justice Powers away from England and into the hands of politicians elected in Ireland.
This debate and subsequent vote was a long time coming, but thankfully we secured more powers and control being removed from faceless British Ministers and into a political institution with all-Ireland and cross-border arrangements. Nach rud maith é sin ar turas s’againn? Níl se thart go foil dár ndóighe.
Tuesday also saw the launch of Rith 2010 – an All-Ireland event taking its inspiration from Korika in the Basque Country. Rith 2010 is a continuous run from Belfast, finishing in Galway on Lá na Féile Pádraig. I was honoured and privileged to carry the baton during last nights main run along a stretch of the Ormeau Road passing An Droichead! The main purpose, aside from all the sporting, community and health benefits is that it is dedicated to raising funds for grassroots Irish Language projects and organisations. Tuilleadh eolais anseo.
The baton will finish up in Galway where it will be opened and a special message from Uachtarán Mary McAleese will be read to those gathered.
Ag an Tionól, faoi ceannaireacht Rosie McCorley d’eagraigh foireann Shinn Féin Rith dlúthpháirtíochta ar fud an Eastáit Stormont. Glach roinnt mhaith Airí, CTReanna, agus foireann tacaíocht SF páirt agus bhí an aimsir galánta agus lá den scoth againn go léir!
myself and maskey making our way down the Ormeau Road
Now the preparation for Easter kicks in, a busy but always important time for Irish republicans; where we gather to remember our Patriot Dead and send our continued solidarity to their loved ones. The Sinn Féin Assembly Team will once again launch the Easter Lilly at Stormont in the coming weeks, as they do every year and then we will gather at gravesides, monuments, street corners and housing estates, not just to remember those who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of our Freedom but to recommit ourselves to the cause that they died for.
Tá neart os ár gcomhair, mar is gnáth!!
PS I hope to have photos of the Le Chéile celebrations up soon. NÓD